A study on didgeridoo healing for chronic snorers and an Aussie study that looked at how cuddling a croc can influence gambling have won international prizes for improbable research.
And while they sound silly, the researchers behind the studies say they’ve made legitimate strides in the name of science.
The annual Ig Nobel Prizes honour research achievements that first make people laugh, but then think.
Professor Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer from Central Queensland University ticked all the boxes with their 2010 study, which looked at how people’s gambling habits can be influenced by a cuddle with a croc.
The pair won the Economics Prize after studying how 103 problem and non-problem gamblers behaved after handling a one metre croc and then jumping on a simulated pokies machine.
They found problem gamblers were likely to place higher bets after handling the reptile because their brains misinterpreted the excitement of holding a dangerous animal as a sign they were on a “lucky” streak.
The study established, for the first time, that there was a link between someone’s emotional state and how they gambled.
“The crocodile study was really about trying to get a sneaky way of arousing people before they gambled so they wouldn’t recognise their own emotional state, that they’re physiologically aroused,” Prof Rockloff told ABC radio.
Another study, involving six researchers from around the world, won the Peace Prize after looking at whether playing the didgeridoo could be a viable alternative treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome.
People with this condition breath very shallowly, and can stop breathing altogether for short periods, when they are asleep, and chronic snoring is one symptom.
The study concluded the didgeridoo might be of some benefit to sufferers – but not because of its droning tone.
Rather researchers concluded that daily practice – which involves a lot of blowing – could strengthened the upper respiratory tract, making breathing easier.
The awards, now in their 27th year, are handed out by actual Nobel Prize winners at Harvard University. They are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research.
He says the didgeridoo study is a perfect example of what’s sought in winning studies.
“They are unusual approaches to things,” Abrahams said. “It would be difficult for some people to decide whether they are important or the opposite. If you had sleep apnea for a long time, the didgeridoo thing would sound quite intriguing.”